The anti-apoptotic effect of Bcl-2 is well established, but the detailed mechanisms are unknown. In the present study, we show in vitro a direct interaction of Bcl-2 with the rat skeletal muscle SERCA (sarcoplasmic/endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase), leading to destabilization and inactivation of the protein. Recombinant human Bcl-2Δ21, a truncated form of Bcl-2 with a deletion of 21 residues at the C-terminal membrane-anchoring region, was expressed and affinity-purified as a glutathione S-transferase fusion protein. Bcl-2Δ21 co-immunoprecipitated and specifically interacted with SERCA in an in vitro-binding assay. The original level of Bcl-2 in sarcoplasmic reticulum vesicles was very low, i.e. hardly detectable by immunoblotting with specific antibodies. The addition of Bcl-2Δ21 to the sarcoplasmic reticulum resulted in the inhibition of the Ca2+-ATPase activity dependent on the Bcl-2Δ21/SERCA molar ratio and incubation time. A complete inactivation of SERCA was observed after 2.5 h of incubation at approx. 2:1 molar ratio of Bcl-2Δ21 to SERCA. In contrast, Bcl-2Δ21 did not significantly change the activity of the plasma-membrane Ca2+-ATPase. The redox state of the single Cys158 residue in Bcl-2Δ21 and the presence of GSH did not affect SERCA inhibition. The interaction of Bcl-2Δ21 with SERCA resulted in a conformational transition of SERCA, assessed through a Bcl-2-dependent increase in SERCA thiols available for the labelling with a fluorescent reagent. This partial unfolding of SERCA did not lead to a higher sensitivity of SERCA towards oxidative inactivation. Our results suggest that the direct interaction of Bcl-2 with SERCA may be involved in the regulation of apoptotic processes in vivo through modulation of cytoplasmic and/or endoplasmic reticulum calcium levels required for the execution of apoptosis.

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